More than three decades after it was conceived, the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas formed its first squadron for the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday with two jets.
The much-delayed home-grown project was approved in 1983 as a replacement for the IAF’s ageing MiG fighters. The first craft was handed over to the air force in January 2015 by defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
The Tejas variant inducted into the IAF at a ceremony in Bengaluru is in its initial operational clearance (IOC) configuration and comes with limited capabilities. Subsequent versions are expected to pack a powerful punch for the air force.
Multi-religious prayer ceremonies were held at the induction ceremony.
Here’s a quick take on the aircraft:
1) The LCA was conceived as a project in 1982, but sanctioned only nine years later. The project suffered due to sanctions imposed by the United States after India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998.
2) The aircraft’s indigenous content is around 65%. The per-unit cost of the warplane is expected to be upwards of Rs 150 crore.
3) The variants to follow will be in the final operational clearance (FOC) configuration, and another modified model called Tejas Mk-1A will be introduced.
4) The newer variants will have additional long-range weapons, superior radar, advanced electronic warfare suite and mid-air refuelling capability.
5) The first squadron is being raised with two fighters at Sulur in Tamil Nadu, with another six to eight warplanes likely to be inducted next year, enabling it to be deployed at a forward airbase in accordance with the IAF’s war plans. The IAF plans to induct 120 Tejas crafts over the next decade.
6) The single-engine planes are being manufactured by Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
7) The count of IAF’s fighter squadrons has shrunk to 33 compared to a desirable strength of 42, a capability gap the air force is struggling to fill. The induction of the LCA will help it counter depleting force levels.
8) In IOC configuration, the warplanes will have air defence and ground attack capabilities. These features include delivering air-to-air missiles and smart weapons.
9) In May 2015, a Comptroller and Auditor General report revealed that Tejas was riddled with 53 “significant shortfalls” that could compromise its survivability in combat.
10) Around18-19 deficiencies relating to maintenance are still to be taken care of. However, all shortcomings relating to flight safety have been addressed.